Panjim is suffering, and so are its citizens. Infrastructure works are on to make the city “smart”, a buzzword that fails to assuage the fears of the citizens who are at crossroads to understand what's happening to their beloved city.
Citizens are waiting to see how smart their city will appear once all these smart city works are executed and done with. But, for now, many fear the forthcoming monsoon, and what lies ahead. "Will the smart city be resilient to flooding?" they want to know.
Why wait for the monsoon to begin? Whether these so-called “smart” works will stand the test of time will be laid bare in the first heavy pre-monsoon shower that can hit the city anytime from now. So let us wait and see! But right now, Panjim is an extremely polluted city.
The city is at the mercy of contractors, who are digging based on their whims and fancies, at times damaging water pipelines and depriving citizens of their precious resource – water.
At the core lies planning that should infuse confidence among the city dwellers that their emotional connection with their dear city will never be broken, but doesn’t. Whether this emotional bond has been maintained will be known when the broken city is mended and is ready to stand on its feet again.
The city fathers and town planners are agog with the word “smart”, but no one is talking about smart transportation and cutting down the usage of cars on the city's streets. At times one can see more cars in Panjim than human beings.
The smart city has surprisingly made no provision for cycling lanes, except for the one that's coming up on the River Mandovi promenade for leisure riders and not for those who look at cycling as a great form of exercise and an intitiative to reduce carbon footprints.
In Goa, there is a mad rush to complete six-lane highways and give cosmetic look to streets, but when cycling lanes are mentioned, it is considered an impossible demand.
Yes, cycling doesn't make anyone rich. Also, inaugurating highways and hot-mixing roads give politicians more mileage.
Secondly, a walk on the pavements of the city for those who love to exercise their muscles is not a very good experience and does not inspire much confidence. Most of the pavements have obstacles and, in some places, are used to park cars and bikes – a very sad state of affairs.
If one starts walking from the city bus stand and enters Panjim from the Old Patto Bridge, one will experience that walking is something that this city fails to encourage. At the Panjim Residency, near the District and Sessions Court, vehicles are brazenly parked on the pavement.
So, the question for the walker is: where do I walk? One has to get onto the road, walk a little ahead and then again get onto the pavement, which is free of bikes and cars.
This is not all, the pavements are also home to beggars at different points. Let us not talk about the begging menace here. We will reserve this subject for another day.
In many places, the pavers have come off, giving one a glimpse of the shoddy works that were undertaken in the past. What is the guarantee that the ongoing smart city works will stand the test of time?
A look at the city today reveals that its peak-hour traffic is getting as congested as any other Indian city of its size. Everywhere there is confusion, and the city, with all its digging works, is not such an exciting place to be in right now.
People on their part are bearing with all the digging work and the messy traffic as a result of it, only on the assurance that their city will be smarter and their lives will be better.